Spotlight Bulgarian Studies Journal
By: Cammeron Girvin, Associate Editor and a Library Technician for the Library of Congress’ Southeast Europe Division
Over the past several years, a perennial question has appeared on the agenda at the annual meeting of the Bulgarian Studies Association (BSA): how can the profile of Bulgarian studies be raised within the larger context of scholarship on Eastern Europe? While the decline in institutional support for the social sciences and humanities has surely been felt by all in the field, scholars of a less-studied country perhaps feel the marginalization of our discipline even more acutely. While any research university worth its salt will always have Russianists in its humanities and social sciences departments, thriving as a Bulgarianist in the US and even in western Europe takes a tremendous amount of fortitude and, generally, an agile research and teaching profile. At nearly all schools that have historically offered instruction in Bulgarian language, declining enrollment and funding considerations have led to the removal of the language from course offerings. In fact, concerned about the precariousness of Bulgarian studies in the US, the BSA has sponsored a panel for the upcoming ASEEES convention in Boston with the topic “Revitalizing Bulgarian Studies.”
As part of the BSA’s efforts to increase the visibility of scholarship on Bulgarian topics, the organization began several years ago to discuss the idea of publishing an online journal, Bulgarian Studies. Though it took some time to get the project off the ground, we released our first issue at the end of last year and are currently preparing to publish the second volume before the end of 2018. Topics represented in the journal vary; our inaugural issue, for example, featured works on history, anthropology, political science, and comparative literature. We believe that this multiplicity of topics appeals to scholars of Bulgaria, many of whom maintain interdisciplinary research interests, and it also legitimates the study of a more marginal country by highlighting diverse research angles from across the academy. The journal is assembled in the spirit of the Bulgarian Studies Association, wherein scholars from different disciplines maintain an interest in each others’ work, banding together to ensure that our country of study remains visible on the academic map.
Though we cannot understate the amount of labor that has been put into the journal, the only expense to the BSA members has been one of time. At its inception, the idea behind the journal was that it would be online and open-access, making it maximally accessible to our readership and negating the tremendous initial cost and substantial oversight required to produce a printed volume. The open nature of the journal ensures that authors, particularly those who may be more junior in status or publishing in English for the first time, are given the maximum possible exposure to an international audience.
Great consideration was given at the journal’s inception that it be a realistic project for a small group of engaged individuals to maintain. Once received by the journal’s editor, article submissions are distributed to members of the editorial committee according to academic discipline. These individuals, all of whom are also members of the BSA, determine whether the work should be accepted or rejected based on its scholarly significance, intellectual groundedness, and clarity of presentation. While some on the committee may suggest small tweaks in a paper’s structure or arguments, the journal’s practice is to assist authors with only a small amount of editing: mostly straightforward matters such as standardization of language and style. Once the raw text of a paper is complete and approved again by authors and reviewers, articles are formatted, the issue’s front matter is assembled, and the volume is compiled as one PDF file (though articles are available for individual download as well). The files are uploaded to the BSA’s website, announcements are disseminated, and readers are free to download and enjoy the new volume.
Those who have edited a serial publication or scholarly monograph before are no doubt aware of the behind-the-scenes efforts and unexpected challenges involved in such a task, and some technical aspects of the publication are still being refined; we are currently awaiting the assignment of the journal’s ISSN, for example. However, for those of us in the Bulgarian studies community, we are undertaking this effort with the fervent hope that it will enhance the visibility of a country about which we care so much. The BSA invites all ASEEES members not only to consider the benefits of online, open-access publishing for readers, authors, and institutions, but to explore some of the engaging research being carried out in the field of Bulgarian studies.
This blog originally appeared in the August 2018 issue of NewsNet.